Common-Sense Juvenile Justice Reform:
Eliminating Fines and Fees on Children

American Children’s Campaign supports ending the harmful practice of imposing fines and fees on Florida children for youthful misbehaviors. In the past decade, the Florida Legislature has promoted children’s futures by removing roadblocks to jobs, education, vocational training, and safe housing. Eliminating fines and fees on children and dually involved youth up to age 21 will promote education, public safety and hope. Only 11% of these assessments – often totaling thousands of dollars per child – are collected. Youth and families of color are disproportionately assessed fees, many of which are applied even without a guilty verdict. Saddling children with debt is counterproductive and equates to justice based on an ability to pay and leads to intergenerational poverty and other disparities.

Judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, and probation professionals all oppose assessing fines and fees onto youth, and it is well past due to end this practice. Removing additional barriers to success for juveniles is the next step in the prior good work of the Florida Legislature in promoting children’s futures by removing roadblocks to jobs, education and vocational training, and safe housing.

Fines and Fees Cost the State More to Collect that the Amount Collected

Only a meager 11% of the roughly $5.1 million in juvenile fines and fees assessed in Florida in 2019 were collected. It appears that more is being spent on attempting to collect this debt than what is received, even ignoring the detrimental long-term impacts to children. It’s difficult to explain to children who are getting on the right track that they must pay these assessments, often totaling thousands of dollars. This is especially true when they have no ability to pay – they’re either too young to work, can’t find work, or it interferes with school and family obligations.

Fines and Fees are a Threat to Public Safety

Saddling youth with debt by assessing fines and fees works directly against promoting public safety. Requiring youth to pay fees to leave the juvenile justice system traps them in debt and increases the likelihood that they will face extended or repeated contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and hinders their ability to move past a mistake.

Debt Keeps Kids in the Juvenile Justice System, and Has Intense Consequences

There are serious consequences to unpaid fines and fees. Florida professionals report children receive extended probation and placement, can’t expunge their records, face civil judgment, and have drivers’ licenses suspended. This profoundly harms children in their ability to further their education, maintain jobs, and avoid homelessness.

The unpaid debt, if sent to collection agencies, grows when a surcharge of up to 40% is added. Families report repeated calls and threatening letters, putting them under even more emotional and financial strain.

Fines and fees are also harmful to children who have lingered in Florida’s child welfare system. They are known as “Cross-over Kids.” Without any reliable family support, they are especially burdened when they try to transition from foster care and juvenile justice involvement into adult life.

Alternatives Work and Reinforce Rehabilitation

Alternative ways to hold youth accountable include written apologies, community service, participating in reading, after school or peer leadership programs, receiving mental health care and therapeutic services, and being paired with mentors. These alternatives reinforce rehabilitation – the core focus of the juvenile justice system.

In addition, states across the country are reforming their systems to eliminate fines and fees on children. Highlights include:

  • Texas (2021): HB 80 eliminated all fines and fees for children in extended foster care or care of the Department of Family and Protective Services, and requires community service as an alternative for any remaining fines or fees.
  • Louisiana (2021): HB 216 eliminated assessments of all court costs in juvenile delinquency proceedings until June 30, 2026.
  • Maryland (2020): HB 36 eliminated all fines and fees
  • New Hampshire (2020): HB 1162 eliminated costs of child support imposed on parents of youth in the justice system
  • New Jersey (2019): S 48 eliminated all fines and monetary sanctions
  • Nevada (2019): AB 439, a unanimous bipartisan bill, eliminated most fees charged to families
  • New Jersey (2019): S 48 eliminated all fines and monetary sanctions
  • California (2018): SB 190 eliminated almost all juvenile court fees
  • Washington (2015): SB 5564, the Year Act, eliminated numerous juvenile diversion fees, court costs, appellate courts, adjudication fees and certain fines.



  • Remove or reform arbitrary practices and policies

    keeping youth in the juvenile justice system for non-criminal behavior, for example – fines and fees.

  • Increase utilization rates for use of civil citations and mandate use by school resource officers; keep youth out of detention for technical violations of parole; and raise the age of arrest from the current age of 7.


American Children’s Campaign Priority Bill Highlights


What American Children’s Campaign is Saying…

Additional Resources


Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by American Children’s Campaign or its affiliate organizations and partners.